Fall is, for many of us, not the happiest time of year. Shorts and tank tops depart, leaving us with gray clouds, sweaters, and mugs of hot tea. But thankfully, some very smart people back in the 1800s thought of a genius plan to keep seasonal affective disorder at bay: Oktoberfest. What better way to keep your spirits up than by throwing an epic party? And what more epic party can be thrown than a royal wedding? You see, Oktoberfest began as the enormous, open-to-the-public wedding reception celebrating Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.
There was beer (duh!), horse racing, feasting, tree climbing, and all manner of good ol’ fashioned German revelry. So much revelry, in fact, that they decided to do it every year. While the horse races didn’t last, the rest of the activities certainly did. At the big Oktoberfest in Munich, a staggering 6.7 million liters of beer was consumed in 2013!
Though we may never catch up to the thirsty citizens of Munich, we are certainly trying. There’s an Oktoberfest going on in nearly every neighborhood and suburb of Seattle, from Fremont to Renton, and rich, coppery Oktoberfest-Märzen lager abounds in our local taprooms. But as popular as the beer may be—called Oktoberfest-Märzen because it is brewed in March to be ready for its official first tapping at the festival—it is not the only delicious tradition you can enjoy at Oktoberfest.
There is, of course, the food. And being a German affair, there is no shortage of it. From grilled ham hocks to creamy, cheesy Käsespätzle, food is an integral part of the festival. Yes, you can go to one of the many local Oktoberfests and get your bratwurst and pretzel, but if you feel like avoiding the crowds, chaos, and $10 beers, you should do yourself a favor and stop by Bavarian Meats for some more adventurous fare.
Starting immediately, Bavarian will be featuring at least one Oktoberfest menu item daily. For those of you who want to attempt to prepare Oktoberfest specialties at home, or just love any excuse to pair great German beer with ham and sauerkraut, you’ll find every ingredient you need on Bavarian’s shelves or in its seemingly endless deli case.
The Oktoberfest rush is already under way, says Bavarian’s manager, Gabby Kessler. “I get orders for pretzels by the 50s,” she says, adding that she’s also going through plenty of fresh ham hocks. Not the smoked ones that you would use for split pea soup, she says, rather “the ones with the skin on that you roast until they are crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and serve just with mustard.” Easy to see why that’s a hot seller.
They will have plenty of other delectables on hand as well, including traditional German mustard, which Gabby stresses is an absolute essential: “We have all the mustards—very important, the mustards. Mustard is an awesome condiment. We say a funny thing in Düsseldorf: ‘A sausage is a great way to eat your mustard.’” There will also be plenty of good German beer, of course. For their Oktoberfest party, they will be offering samples of beer from Ayinger Brewery, makers of what Gabby describes as “one of the best” Oktoberfest lagers. Having tasted it myself, I’m inclined to agree.
Though the Oktoberfest specials on the lunch menu begin immediately, Bavarian’s big celebration isn’t until nearly the end of October. Which is, oddly enough, late for Oktoberfest. The festival is normally held in late September, a decision made by Munich’s city fathers shortly after they took over administration of the event, in an effort to ensure that their citizens did not leave drenched in both beer and rain.
Being graced with indoor facilities, Bavarian can hold its Oktoberfest a bit later. But don’t burn yourself out at the late-September biergartens—Bavarian’s celebration is well worth the wait. If the free beer weren’t enough, Riesling and Sekt (sparkling wine) will also be on offer, along with Bavarian’s own delicious takes on traditional festival foods, including the “Mad Max,” a play on the corndog. It’s a battered weisswurst skewer served with Bavarian’s bracing curry ketchup for dipping. If that can’t cure you of your seasonal blues, what can?